- Look out for hidden sugars on food labels especially biscuits and breads
- Minimise plastic in your kitchen
- Exercise regularly and improve strength training in your routine
It's well understood that type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle related disorder. The risk factors for type 2 diabetes include poor lifestyle with poor eating habits, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and a history of gestational diabetes. It's is now well established that PCOS is a strong risk factor for diabetes among women of reproductive age. Studies have shown that the risk of developing diabetes is 4 times greater and the diagnosis can be done much earlier in women suffering from PCOS.
PCOS (Poly cystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a condition associated with menstrual irregularities, infertility, hair loss, and appearance of facial hair, menstrual cramping and pain. Women with PCOS typically have multiple immature follicles in their ovaries, caused by an over production of hormones called androgens. Uncontrolled PCOS increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and endometrial cancer too.
We know that our pancreas produce insulin and the role of insulin is to drive blood sugar into the cells. When someone becomes insulin resistant, the insulin receptors in our body cells become inefficient and the body is not able to use the sugar circulating in the blood. In response, our pancreas produce more insulin and our body constantly needs higher levels of insulin to utilize the circulating blood glucose. Insulin is an appetite-stimulating and a fat-storage hormone and the higher circulating levels of insulin in the blood lead to obesity.
High circulating levels of insulin also alter the reproductive hormones, thus disturbing the menstrual cycle and leading to the typical PCOS symptoms, though symptoms can vary a lot from person to person.
Consistently high level of circulating blood sugars over the years can lead to pre-diabetes and eventually diabetes. Infact, PCOS and pre-diabetes frequently co-exist. Most doctors prefer to use the most common hypo-glycemic drug, Metformin, as the first line of treatment for PCOS.
Since, insulin resistance, PCOS and diabetes can be attributed to poor lifestyle (apart from genetic factors), its management requires lifestyle strategies as follows:
1. A diet high in refined carbs, starchy and sugary foods increases insulin resistance.
2. Consume high fibre whole grains, whole pulses, local and seasonal fruits & vegetables too as these have a low glycemic index.
3. Also include nuts, flaxseeds, omega-3 rich fatty fish
4. Include lean protein like whole pulses, beans, legumes, egg, dairy, lean cuts of chicken.
5. Abstain completely from colas, alcohol, sugary snacks like muffins and cookies, all processed and packaged foods and also fruit juices.
6. Look out for hidden sugars on food labels especially biscuits and breakfast cereals.
7. Try to eliminate/minimize the use of plastic in your kitchen.
8. Exercising regularly improves the efficiency of your insulin receptors. A minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week goes a long way in overcoming insulin resistance, improving your PCOS and reducing your risk for diabetes.
9. Weight training or strength training regularly in particular is the most effective way of overcoming insulin resistance.
Do not get lured by starvation/ crash/ fad diets to achieve quick weight loss as it further compromises nutrient availability and worsens your hormonal imbalance.
(Pooja Malhotra is a nutritionist based in Delhi)
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